A New Level Of Detail

 Posted by at 23:55  No Responses »
Oct 262015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

I may have gone a little overboard with how detailed the paper printout of this model is. That said, it’s going to look amazing when it’s done.

The mic tip inset

I’ve been assembling everything with nothing but scotch tape so far. Cutting up tiny strips of tape and putting enough pressure on them to make sure they stay in place is proving incredibly tedious, though, and I’m mulling over various glue solutions. (Elmer’s? Superglue? Something else?)

Pieces under construction

Even so, when I can put it beside my two prototypes and see just how much better it is, it’s worth the effort.

Comparison with the prototypes

The Sizing Prototype

 Posted by at 21:31  No Responses »
Oct 152015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Satisfied with my revised model and with scale issues now addressed, I decided to make one more prototype before printing out a high-resolution paper model that will go on to form the basis of my helmet mold. This one would be very low resolution, its only purpose to validate that it was big enough for my head and that my proportions were vaguely correct.

The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype

As it turned out, this actually went a little too small, due in part to compensating for the size correction in the 3D model, but not the printout. Fortunately, it means the next round should be bang-on. I also acquired some fiberglass mat and resin with which to reinforce the paper model prior to slathering it with Bondo, which is heavy. I don’t want the paper to deform under the weight, so the fiberglass-and-resin step aims to give it enough rigidity to prevent that. The original large prototype is shiny in these pictures because it’s been given an initial outer coat of resin. The fiberglass will go inside for structural strength.

I, uh, also couldn’t resist checking the sizing prototype’s fit…

Imperial Derptrooper

Sep 112015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Photogrammetry has been a major interest of mine for a number of years now, but all of my efforts toward making use of it as an artistic tool have thus far met with failure. None of the open-source, free, or even pay solutions either work or do what I want.1 I have designs on cooking up a program of my own at some point that does it all, but haven’t really set aside the time (hah!) to work something up.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Blender could do some of what I wanted, natively.

It’s got major restrictions, though: namely, it only solves for a single camera (i.e. one focal length, one sensor size). Mingling images from different cameras, even if the various properies of those images are known2, is a no-go. That put me in a bit of a pickle, because I have a ton of Stormtrooper helmet reference photos, but very few from the same camera and even fewer that present a good “turntable” set. Fortunately, I did have one set, complete with full EXIF data that I could use to set the correct camera properties!

Of course, it was only nine images, with a lot of movement between frames. Blender couldn’t hope to solve that on its own. So, I spent hours and hours every night tracking points across my nine “frames” by hand, trying to find any features that stood out and were easily tracked. Naturally — because it couldn’t possibly be easy! — these points were almost never major “feature” points of the Stormtrooper helmet as one might conceive of them. They were usually blemishes; chipped paint, drips, dings, and so forth.

It took me a while to realize that tracking these “defects” was even worthwhile. My first approach was to try to project the 3D coordinates into the scene so that they coincided with actual features of my existing model. As time went on and I learned more, though, I realized this was folly. I just needed the right “origin” (I used the top of the gray “frown”) and to set the proper scale. I also came to understand, since I wasn’t defining any lines as denoting an X and Y axis3, that the camera solver made use of my initial camera position in 3D space as-is. It wasn’t “solving” that; it was using that as the starting point for the camera’s motion. That meant I had to eyeball that into the right position.

Eventually, though, I got it. A “perfect” solve is anything with a Blender-reported error of <= 0.3, Anything up to about 6 can still be "pretty good." My solve is ~0.9, which I am astonished by after how impossible a task it seemed when I set out.

The little balls are the 3D projections of my tracking points. The reason the photo and the right side (camera left) of the model are so different is explained further down. Image source.

With my camera calibrated, I could finally start modifying my existing model to make it better match the real, screen-used prop! This was the very first time in my entire history 3D modeling that I’ve been able to do that — take a “real life” picture that wasn’t purpose-shot as near-orthographic and use it as a reference plate in 3D space. It took some doing, but this part was much easier than the tracking itself. After all, it’s essentially the same sort of thing I’ve been doing for the better part of two decades. It entailed a great deal of hopping back and forth between “frames” to make sure everything lined up from all nine of my camera angles, but eventually I had the entire left half of the helmet photo-matched.

The screen helmet, though, is asymmetrical. That meant copying my left-side model and tweaking it all over again on the right side to make it match that one. That went a great deal faster, though, and with a quick hop back over to the left to do some final tweaks, I had a bang-on (with a handful of exceptions that could easily be chalked up to lens distortion of the photos themselves) match for the asymmetrical ANH Stunt helmet.

From there, it was a simple matter to “average” the vertices from the left and right sides to create a symmetrical helmet that matched pretty well with both the left and right helmet sides in the photos.

(Click for full-resoltion)

Next step, convert it to paper!

  1. PPT and Voodoo always seem to crash or spit out garbage and Catch123D is super off-putting. The Cloud and cloud computing can be amazing things, but I still want my applications local, man. []
  2. One of the things that’s possible to do in general, given sufficient shared coordinates between images, but unknown camera parameters, is to back-calculate the camera properties. My photogrammetry program, whenever I eventually write it, will do this. []
  3. My image sequence was shot against a single, static background and the helmet itself was turned, so there was no true 3D origin coordinate I could use. []

Full Guinea Pig

 Posted by at 20:36  No Responses »
Aug 202015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

This is sitting on my dining room table right now.

Glaring inaccuracies? You bet. Beyond the overall dimension one I mentioned yesterday, even. All correctable in the next version, which can also be even more detailed on top of being more accurate.

I’m…pretty excited.

That excitement, though, is tempered somewhat by questions and self-doubt around the term “accuracy.” Ever since hearing about them and especially since meeting some of them in person, I’ve had my eye on eventually applying to join the 501st, whenever I got myself around to actually building this damn thing. But even though that badge of honor, that community would have meaning for me, doing this my way has more.

I don’t aim to achieve “screen accuracy.” The screen accurate model is asymmetrical, there are differences in the helmets seen in each movie, and even within individual movies (the ANH “hero” and “stunt” helmets). For my helmet, I want to opt for the “best” of all of them, not just pick one and replicate it. That’s not to say I’m looking to take shortcuts or produce a sub-par product by any stretch of the imagination. My goal is to create something that you could easily put on screen next to any of the other “screen accurate” suits and have it blend right in…unless you knew exactly what to look for.

I’ve been lurking on the 501st boards for a long time and the prevailing sentiments on this topic stick to just a few schools of thought.

There is the most common reaction that one should “just buy a kit” from an approved vendor. Some consider this the “cheapest” path, especially factoring time in. Maybe they’re right, if that’s where their priorities lie. I want to create, so that holds no value to me. Others expressing this view come across as pushing a marketing scheme. “You won’t get approval to join unless you buy from an approve vendor!” I realize this is an intensely cynical view; the “approved vendors” have all spent tremendous time, thought, and energy into creating authentic, accurate replicas and that is work that should only ever be commended. It’s still got an unpleasant feel to me that I can’t shake.

There are those who simply don’t “get” the process of papercraft molds. They see the papercraft version and think people are going to apply with that alone, which obviously doesn’t meet any kind of standard for authenticity. And, for what it’s worth, some — many, even — folks do go on to use the paper model as the basis for the final, wearable piece. There have been some great costumes created this way. Again, that’s not what I’m doing, but the prospect of having to explain and re-explain that isn’t terribly appealing.

Along a similar line, the 501st has been around for a long time. They’ve no doubt had countless people trying to apply and get approval with “unique ideas” or “unique approaches” or whatever else that are, objectively, pretty terrible. They’re tired of it, they’re cynical of anything that has even the vaguest aroma of this, and they’d rather steer such enthusiasm toward a non-terrible end product (and often end up dovetailing heavily with the “just buy a kit” crowd, as a result). I sympathize with this group; they have no reason to believe I’d be anything other than yet another in a very long parade of wannabes.

Finally, there are those who just seem to enjoy the entirety of the hobby and want to encourage participation and creativity as a whole. These seem, rather depressingly, to be the rarest sort. They do exist, though, so that’s something.

At the end of it all, I have to remember that I’m doing this for me. If it doesn’t pass someone else’s sniff test but it does pass mine (knowing just how high my bar is for myself), so be it. They just aren’t looking for the same thing I am.

Regardless, I have work to do.

Aug 202015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

You’d think after working on this project on-and-off for two years that any new setback would come as yet another dispiriting blow. For once, tonight’s setback is a huge win and even serves to make all of the previous setbacks — especially the CarveWright-related ones — seem like blessings in disguise.

You see, I had the size wrong all along.

I originally scaled the 3D helmet model in Blender to an approximation of my own head. I eyeballed it until the size looked right. Later, I found some actual measurements folks had taken of the molds from the films and checked those against my existing pieces, which seemed to line up correctly. Cool, my estimate had been correct out of the gates! Confident now that I was on the right path, I proceeded through all of the various updates you’ve read about this project. I occasionally spot-checked during the cardboard process to make sure I was still within expected tolerance of those dimensions. When I switched to the CarveWright, I was already set, since the Blender model hadn’t changed and the cardboard cross-sections had been correct in any event. Having now switched to paper, I continued on as before with the existing dimensions.

Before printing everything out on heavy-duty cardstock, I did a test print of just a few portions of the helmet in plain paper to get a feel for the method, check dimensions, sanity check my paper templates, and so on.

Plain paper 'dome' prototype

Lumpy, but promising. Size seemed pretty good when I put it over my head (dopey as I looked doing it…), so I started printing out the cardstock parts. Here’s the same set of templates, printed in cardstock, used to make the plain paper prototype.

The same templates, printed in cardstock, used to make the plain paper prototype

All in all, everything was coming together very nicely.

'Jowl' before... ...and after

More than any other time in the project, I felt like I was making real progress at last.

A face emerges

I got quite far along. Here’s where things stand as of right now.

Progress to date

All along, though, something’s been nagging me. Every time I held up the “face” to my face, every time I eyeballed the dome, it all felt really big. Having never actually handled a stormtrooper helmet of any variety in person before, I figured this was just expectations clashing with reality. But I’d hate to go through the entire process and screw up something as basic as the proper dimensions, so I started measuring things.

And they were too big. The helmet, which I expected to “stand” about 12″ tall, measured closer to 14″. Did I misprint? Scale something wrong in the process? I couldn’t have gotten the model wrong; I’d checked that against the research from that theRPF post…

…hadn’t I?

I jumped into Blender and threw down a 12″×12″×12″ cube…and it was smaller than my model!

What the hell? At what point had I overscaled it? Perhaps at no point. I may have deliberately underscaled the cardboard cutouts when I did them and forgotten about having done so somewhere along the way. Why I would’ve done that instead of scaling the Blender model, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe something to do with render resolution and creating consistently sized cross-sections? In any event, with the exception of those templates, my dimensions have been too big all along. Even if the CarveWright had worked perfectly, I’d’ve had a garbage mold that I’d need to re-carve.

But now…I actually have a testbed. It’s too big, sure, so I won’t be casting from it, but I’m so close to done with it that it’s actually a worthwhile guinea pig to test out other aspects of my approach: resin-and-fiberglass reinforcement, Bondo filling, sanding, and so on. It won’t need the same level of finish as the “real” one will, but it’ll give me free reign to learn and screw up without feeling tremendous loss.

What’s more, I can use everything I’ve learned about the Blender papercraft export plugin thus far along with the experience of having cut out all this stuff once before, to create better, more detailed, and easier-to-assemble templates than I did the first time through.

Catching this now is a huge win compared to catching it at any other point along the way and especially going forward. Color me relieved!

Pivot #3

 Posted by at 21:19  No Responses »
Aug 112015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

After struggling to get the CarveWright CNC carving machine to cooperate on-and-off over the last year or so, I’m ready to declare defeat on this approach. Every time I think I’ve got “the” problem solved, a new one crops up. First, I had the colorspace issues. Fixed that. Then, I had issues stemming from materials (MDF), so I swapped out for wood. Then I had issues with accuracy, that seemed to stem from the heightmap again. Wasn’t that. These accuracy issues continued to plague. I disassembled the machine, cleaned it, greased it, aligned it, calibrated it, and repeated the whole process numerous times. Once I thought I had it licked, I engaged in an ambitious many-hour carve to get all the pieces finally done…only to discover massive disparity between what I expected and what the final pieces measured, none of which seemed due to the data going in. I sought out advice on the CarveWright user forums, got some new ideas — perhaps I needed to calibrate the machine per board, for each carve in order to achieve the accuracy I sought, for example. But before I could test any of this, new issues appeared — now, boards wouldn’t even measure, complaining that there was a sensor roller error…when he board left the sensor roller because it had fed past it!

That was toward the end of April. The last straw came tonight, when I mustered up the courage to finally see about resolving these issues and test out this per-board calibration hypothesis. I couldn’t get the sensor roller to stop throwing errors, telling the machine to ignore the errors caused different errors to appear, and then — when taking apart the sandpaper belts that feed the board through the machine, I saw that the belts had started to “roll under” themselves again, which was an issue I fixed months ago. It was too much. There are parts I can look into replacing — newer, better; rubber belts instead of sandpaper, for instances — but that costs a great deal of money on top of the money already spent to acquire the machine in the first place (dramatically discounted though it was). I set out to prove that one could make a good-quality stormtrooper helmet on the cheap; this wasn’t that at all and I wasn’t about to keep throwing money at it.

Therefore, I’m changing my approach once again. While the cross-section approach is still something that I think has merit, I’ve come to the point now where I’ve seen enough successful projects that start from naught but paper that I’m going to give that a go. I’ve already got my 3D model, which needs only marginal tweaking to be suitable for that sort of approach, so I should lose little in the accuracy I hoped to achieve with the CarveWright, though I may not end up with a solid wood positive mold that I can pull numerous silicone negatives/poured urethane casts from. Maybe. Who knows, perhaps I will be able to create a mold this way and still use the silicone-and-urethane approach I planned to use all along.

Time to find out.

Jul 252015

I’m mostly writing this for my own notes, but on the off-chance my incoherent notes are useful to others, I decided to put it here. Most of this is going to be devoid of context, but for reference’s sake, I’m using a combination of XWA Opt Editor, Blender, XWA Texture Replacer (XTR), and finally OPTech to create the XvT/TIE-compatible OPTs. I’ll probably add more to this as I go.

Clean Up Unused Materials

There’s an addon that ships with Blender but is dormant by default called Material Utils that has a function to remove unused materials from an object (Clean Material Slots (Material Utils)). Use this once you’ve finished futzing with materials.

Clean Up UVTextures

These garbage up the exported OBJ with bad materials long after you’ve done any material editing. The following script obliterates them:

import bpy

objects = bpy.context.selected_objects

if (objects is None):
	print("You must select at least one object") # This warning will only show in the Blender console
for ob in objects:
	uvTexData = ob.data.uv_textures.active.data[:]
	print("Active UV on %s has %s faces of data" % (ob.name, len(uvTexData))) # Purely informational; can be omitted if desired
	for i in range(0, len(uvTexData)):
		if (uvTexData[i].image is not None): # We do not want ANY uv textures!
			print("Face %s: %s" % (i, uvTexData[i].image.name)) # Purely informational; what face has what UV texture
			uvTexData[i].image = None
			print("Cleaned UV texture from face")

Material and Texture Naming

Materials and Textures (the Blender concept of a Texture, not the actual filename) must be named TEX*, with a 5-digit numeric identifier (starting at 00000 and incrementing by 1) in order to behave properly. I tried a bunch of different naming schemes in the hopes that I could keep human-meaningful names applied to either Materials or Textures, but this inevitably caused problems once trying to check the model in XTR or OPTech. XWA Opt Editor handles it fine, though. I wrote several python scripts to do this, based on whatever previous iteration of material naming I had. Here was the most recent:

import bpy, re

materials = bpy.data.materials
idx = 0

for mat in materials:
	if mat.name[0] == 'X': # Detecting whether a material was prefixed with X, which was the previous naming scheme for my top-level LOD
		newName = "TEX%s" % format(idx,'05') # 0-pad to 5 digits
		print("Renaming %s to %s" % (mat.name, newName)) # Informational
		mat.name = newName # Rename the material
		imgEx = mat.active_texture.image.name[-4:] # Get the extension on the Texture
		print("Renaming %s to %s%s" (mat.active_texture.image.name, newName, imgEx)) # Informational
		mat.active_texture.image.name = "%s%s" % (newName, imgEx) # Rename the texture; NOT the file, though
		idx += 1 # Only increment if we matched above

Export Settings

Make sure Selected Only is enabled if you only want to export your selection (which I did/do, since I had multiple LODs in the same Blender file) and make sure Triangulate Faces is turned on. Optionally, turn off Include Edges, which I think will keep the OBJ from having two-vertex mesh objects treated as full faces (if you have these, you probably did something wrong).

Texture Format Doesn’t (Seem To) Matter

One thing I tried was converting all the PNGs exported by XWA OPT Editor to BMPs before loading them into Blender, but this didn’t ultimately make a difference when then re-importing the exported OBJ back to XWA OPT Editor; they still came in as 32-bit images and had to be internally converted to 8-bit. Irritating limitation of the tool, I guess. One issue I’ve variously encountered is garbage material/palette names that I thought might be connected to this in some way. The solution here, though, seemed to simply be saving the imported OPT as soon as it was imported from the OBJ, then running the 32 -> 8-bit conversion. That resulted in non-garbage palette names. Of course, this may also be related to the previous note about naming and have nothing to do with the conversion order of operations.

Look, Up, Right Vectors

I’m not actually sure about any of this yet, because I haven’t tested it, but I wrote the following script to compute my best-guess for the OPT convention for what “Look”, “Up,” and “Right” vectors should be, based on an input selection of vertices and the average of their normals. The idea here is to use it to define rotational axes and such for rotary gun turrets and other moving model parts. For most parts, this isn’t necessary.

import bpy
from mathutils import Vector

selVerts = [i.index for i in bpy.context.active_object.data.vertices if i.select == True]
retNormal = Vector((0,0,0)) # The resulting vector we'll calculate from the selection

for i in selVerts:
	vertNormal = bpy.context.object.data.vertices[i].normal
	retNormal += vertNormal # Add to the calculated normal
retNormal = retNormal / len(selVerts) # Average the summed normals by the number of vertices involved
retNormal = retNormal * bpy.context.active_object.matrix_world * 32767 # Scale to the OPT convention and multiply by the world matrix to get global normals instead of local

# The idea is to take the computed average normal from Blender's coordsys and convert it to the OPT coordsys displayed in XWA Opt Editor
lookVector = Vector((retNormal.y, retNormal.z, retNormal.x))
upVector = Vector((retNormal.z, retNormal.x*-1, retNormal.y))
rightVector = Vector((retNormal.x, retNormal.y*-1, retNormal.z*-1))

print("Look: %s\nUp: %s\nRight: %s\n------" % (lookVector, upVector, rightVector))

Getting a Coordinate for a Hardpoint

Rather than manually copying every vertex I wanted to use as a hardpoint, I wrote this script.

import bpy, os

objLoc = bpy.context.active_object.location
objWorldMatrix = bpy.context.active_object.matrix_world
objVerts = bpy.context.active_object.data.vertices
selVerts = [i.index for i in verts if i.select == True]

for i in selVerts:
	# Need to do the following vector/matrix math to get the value 
	# actually reported as a Global coordinate by Blender for a 
	# selected vertex
	# (Local vertex coordinate + (object location * object world matrix)) * inverse object world matrix 
	vertLocalPos = objVerts[i].co
	vertGlobalPos = (vertLocalPos + (objLoc * objWorldMatrix)) * objWorldMatrix.inverted()
	# Flip the y value to match OPT coordinate space
	vertGlobalPos.y = vertGlobalPos.y * -1
	# Dump the string to the clipboard
	optStr = "%s; %s; %s" % (vertPos.x, vertPos.y, vertPos.z)
	print(optStr) # Informational
	os.system("echo %s | clip" % optStr)
Jul 022015

Putting this here for posterity and in case it’s useful to others.

Updated 2015-07-06 with clarifications for the re-orchestrated music section. New entries are marked with an asterisk.

Updated 2015-07-23 with specific instructions on how to apply the “Laser Patch” for Star Destroyers, so they actually shoot and general instructions on adding enhanced models to the game.

This specifically applies only to people who have the Windows CD version of TIE Fighter (the one released using the XvT engine). If you have the old DOS version or the GOG.com version, these instructions may/will not apply to you. These steps are directly adapted from this guide, distilled into the minimal form of the steps I followed. That guide also has instructions for the older DOS version and GOG.com versions, if that’s your thing. Additionally, this is specifically for users of Windows 7 x64. I make no guarantees of applicability to other versions of Windows.

Primary Instructions

  1. Download Tie95-win7.zip
  2. Extract Tie95-Win7.zip to a temporary location (henceforth %TIE95-WIN7_DIR%)
  3. Insert the TIE Fighter CD. Close/exit autostart if it opens.
  4. Open the TIE95 disc in Explorer instead.
  5. Copy all files on disc to your hard drive somewhere (henceforth %TIECD_DIR%)
  6. Run XCS_TIE95_MSI_v1.0.0.0.exe from %TIE95-WIN7_DIR% and point it at the place where you copied the game files.
  7. Run XCS - TIE Fighter 95.msi from %TIECD_DIR%. Accept defaults (or change them as desired; I didn’t try; henceforth, this install path is henceforth %TIE_PATH%).
  8. Copy tie95.bat from %TIE95-WIN7_DIR% to %TIE_PATH%. This file closes Explorer when the game launches (possible color issues) and restarts it again when the game exits. Do not be alarmed.
  9. Locate the TIE Fighter 95 shortcut in the start menu, right-click and choose “Properties”
  10. Change TIESTART.EXE to tie95.bat
  11. Click ‘Apply’, then ‘Change Icon…’, then select the TIE95.EXE and click ‘OK’
  12. Click ‘OK’ to close the properties window.
  13. In your video card profile settings (e.g. NIVIDA Control Panel), create a profile for TIE95.EXE
    • Disable anti-aliasing. Having it on leads to weird color flickering.
    • Enable 16x Anisotropic Filtering
  14. Open XWTIE95.zip from %TIE95-WIN7_DIR% and run XWTIE95.exe to prevent D3D crashes.
  15. Make sure the disc is in the drive
  16. Copy B6M3GW.TIE from %TIE95-WIN7_DIR% to %TIE_PATH%\Mission (official LucasArts patch for this mission)
  17. Make sure you have a joystick plugged in. Game won’t cooperate without one.
  18. Run the game from your shortcut

Reorchestrated Music

To get the original music and improved voice, you basically need to rebuild the TIE CD disc with the Reorchestrated data files.

  1. Ensure you have a way to create and virtually “mount” ISO and BIN/CUE disc images
  2. *Download TF95ReorchestratedMusic.zip
  3. Download TF95ReochestratedDatav1.zip
  4. *Extract TF95ReorchestratedMusic.zip (doesn’t matter where). You should have a .bin and a .cue file.
  5. *Burn the BIN/CUE image to a blank CD (DVD will not cut it). Critically, there is no data (other than an empty blank.txt file) on this disc! It’s writing audio tracks layered with a data track and the game is expecting to find these audio tracks. This is key to make the in-flight battle music play.
  6. *This disc is now the physical disc you must have present when you play, not your original CD. Instead, the following steps will replace the physical CD with a virtual one.
  7. Extract TF95ReochestratedDatav1.zip to %TIECD_DIR%
  8. Replace %TIE_PATH%\TIE95.EXE with the one in the Data zip’s INSTALL folder.
  9. Create an image of %TIECD_DIR% and be sure to name it TIE95 (so it matches the original game disc)
  10. Mount it as TIE95 using some kind of virtual mounting software.
  11. *Ensure the original game disc is no longer in your drive and you are instead using the newly-created music disc.
  12. Run the game from your shortcut
  13. You may get prompted that there is no disc in the original drive. Click ‘Cancel’ and the game should launch anyway. It will not show this warning on subsequent runs.

Laser Patch

The original release of the game had a bug wherein ISDs wouldn’t shoot anything other than missiles. As you might imagine, this has/had a rather deleterious effect on mission balance for several missions (Battle 11 Mission 2, in particular, is all but impossible without your Star Destroyer dishing out firepower alongside you). This problem was fan-patched back when it was first discovered, but with all the binary file changes involved in the above, those patches don’t really work. I managed to figure out where in the executable the patches made their changes, though, by comparing byte-code before and after of a binary that I could patch. If you’re feeling brave and want to edit hexadecimal byte code directly, follow the following instructions.

  1. Obtain some way to edit binary files. I like frhed.
  2. Make a backup of your TIE95.exe file! I cannot stress this enough. If you screw up the binary, you’re SOL and will have to repeat everything above all over again.
  3. Open TIE95.exe in your hex editor.
  4. Locate offset 00dd89c and change these four bytes from 34 35 35 37 to 34 36 36 37.
  5. Locate offset 00ee834 and change the first of the four bytes at this location from 00 to 03.
  6. Locate offset 00ee844 and change the last of the four bytes at this location from 35 to 34.
  7. Locate offset 00ee848 and change these four bytes from 02 00 03 01 to 00 45 03 21.
  8. Locate offset 00ee84c and change these four bytes from 00 03 1c 0c to 00 04 00 fa.
  9. Locate offset 00ee850 and change these four bytes from 84 03 00 00 to 00 7d 00 00.
  10. Save your modified binary.
  11. Give it a spin. Star Destroyers should now shoot.

Enhanced Ship Models

It is possible to use more advanced ship models, such as those in XvT, XWA, or the high-quality models produced by the XWAU project, in TIE Fighter. I’m not going to enumerate every step involved, but you’ll need a program called OPTech (the site’s hideous, but the tool’s good), which can read and write OPT model files in both the format used by X-wing Alliance and the older XvT-style format used by the Window release of TIE Fighter. Create a new project in OPTech, import an OPT, save it as XvT format, rename it as necessary, and drop it into your %TIE_PATH%/IVFILES directory, deleting any OP1 files that may also share the same name.


Jan 202015

A fairly inconsistent close-out to the end of the year, followed by three consecutive 2000+ word days finally spell the completion of the first draft of Alour-Tan 2! I immediately set to outlining Alour-Tan 3 and sent off the draft to my First Reader, who has been providing me regular and fantastic feedback while progressing through the book. Once all the feedback is in, I’ll fire up a new round of Writing in Public to chronicle the second draft.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sun, Dec. 14 2187 65540 72396
Mon, Dec. 15 4399 69939 76795
Tue, Dec. 16 0 69939 76795 Went to see The Hobbit
Wed, Dec. 17 2081 72020 78876
Thu, Dec. 18 0 72020 78876 Wife’s company party
Fri, Dec. 19 826 72846 79702 Coworker’s retirement party
Sat, Dec. 20 738 73584 80440 Friend’s birthday party
Sun, Dec. 21 0 73584 80440
Mon, Dec. 22 0 73584 80440
Tue, Dec. 23 1295 74879 81735
Wed, Dec. 24 877 75756 82612
Thu, Dec. 25 0 75756 82612 End of year vacation. Didn’t quite hit the 80k I wanted to hit in the November+December timespan, but I needed to not think about any sort of work for the remainder of the year.
Fri, Dec. 26
Sat, Dec. 27
Sun, Dec. 28
Mon, Dec. 29
Tue, Dec. 30
Wed, Dec. 31
Thu, Jan. 1
Fri, Jan. 2
Sat, Jan. 3 2886 85498
Sun, Jan. 4 2109 87607
Mon, Jan. 5 2143 89750 DRAFT ONE COMPLETE

Previous Writing in Public post here.

Dec 152014

Per my tweet from a few days back, Act Two is done and now it’s time to run down the home stretch to the end of this draft of this book! Then begins the revision process to make it not abjectly terrible.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Mon, Nov. 24 2054 40338 47194
Tue, Nov. 25 2807 43145 50001
Wed, Nov. 26 4252 47397 54253
Thu, Nov. 27 0 47397 54253 Thanksgiving
Fri, Nov. 28 2243 49640 56496
Sat, Nov. 29 994 50634 57490 Regular NaNo goal achieved. Also, a travel day, so not much time for writing.
Sun, Nov. 30 0 50634 57490 More traveling. Recovering.
Mon, Dec. 1 2513 53147 60003 Sixty thousand!
Tue, Dec. 2 0 53147 60003 Not sure what happened here.
Wed, Dec. 3 2243 55390 62246
Thu, Dec. 4 2105 57495 64351
Fri, Dec. 5 1726 59221 66077
Sat, Dec. 6 0 59221 66077 In general, I like to take one (deliberate) day off a week and that day is generally Saturday.
Sun, Dec. 7 2022 61243 68099
Mon, Dec. 8 0 61243 68099 Funky commuting plus staying out late.
Tue, Dec. 9 0 61243 68099 Movie night.
Wed, Dec. 10 0 61243 68099 Working late.
Thu, Dec. 11 0 61243 68099 More working late.
Fri, Dec. 12 2110 63353 70209 Seventy thousand!
Sat, Dec. 13 0 63353 70209 Party!
Sun, Dec. 14 2187 65540 72396

Previous Writing in Public post here.